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  • Cited by 57
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
July 2020
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Book description

The Classic Maya have long presented scholars with vexing problems. One of the longest running and most contested of these, and the source of deeply polarized interpretations, has been their political organization. Using recently deciphered inscriptions and fresh archaeological finds, Simon Martin argues that this particular debate can be laid to rest. He offers a comprehensive re-analysis of the issue in an effort to answer a simple question: how did a multitude of small kingdoms survive for some six hundred years without being subsumed within larger states or empires? Using previously unexploited comparative and theoretical approaches, Martin suggests mechanisms that maintained a 'dynamic equilibrium' within a system best understood not as an array of individual polities but an interactive whole. With its rebirth as text-backed historical archaeology, Maya studies has entered a new phase, one capable of building a political anthropology as robust as any other we have for the ancient world.


Winner, 2021 R.R. Hawkins Award, Association of American Publishers

Winner, 2021 PROSE Excellence Award in Humanities, Association of American Publishers

Winner, 2021 James Henry Breasted Prize, American Historical Association


‘… a comprehensive overview of Maya political institutions … Martin offers some valuable insights likely to be of use to those with an interest in comparative history and the global evolution of political institutions, diplomacy, war and conflict.’

A. A. Nofi Source: The NYMAS Review

‘Ancient Maya Politics provides a record of the political system and history of the Classic Period of Maya civilization, from 400 BCE to 200 CE and through its decline after 800 CE … Strongly recommended for specialists in Mesoamerican history and society.’

E. N. Anderson Source: Choice

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